Slander lawsuit against Guam’s suspended archbishop dismissed

A Guam court has dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit against Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, who is facing several accusations of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The archbishop had publicly renounced the sexual abuse charges in a 2016 statement soon after the accusations were made, saying there were “intentional lies.”

The archbishop’s accusers brought a two-part defamation case against him shortly after his 2016 statement. Guam Pacific Daily News reported that the plaintiffs were seeking $500,000 each for a total $2 million in defamation charges.

In recent decision, Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo dismissed the slander case but will allow the libel case to stand.

“It dismissed half the suit essentially…the complaint is two-fold: it’s a defamation suit. One for libel. One for slander. The slander was dismissed so all that’s remaining is libel,” said the archbishop’s attorney, Jacque Terlaje, according to Kuam News.

The court instructed the defendant to “seek dismissal of the suit based on the affirmative defenses of qualified privilege,” Terlaje said.

“If someone accuses you of sex abuse, and in this context in a public forum… every person has the right to defend against that, to repel the allegations of abuse is the language that is used by many courts.”

Archbishop Apuron has been accused by four former alter boys of sexual molestation in the 1970s, when Apuron was a parish priest at Mount Carmel Parish in Agat. The allegations were made public in 2016.

In January 2018, the archbishop’s nephew accused him of rape around 1989 or 1990.

Archbishop Apuron continued to deny all allegations. “God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me include this one,” he said in January, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.